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Z92              A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
has so often, carried a false, purely material connotation, both in the medieval European and the uninitiate Egyptian mind, that we have to rediscover the laws that govern the secret constitution of man. The best minds among the ancients— the initiates of the Mysteries—were well versed in those lavs, but, whereas their lips were sealed and their truths kept in the gloom of temple crypts, no such inhibition is expressly laid upon us to-day.
Such were the Mysteries, the most glorious of the vanished institutions of antiquity. For a day arrived, in the degradation and fall of Egypt—as in the degradation and fall of all the other ancient nations—when the prediction of her own early Prophet Hermes came literally true:
"0 Egypt, Ejtypt! the land which was the seat of divinity shall be deprived of the presence of the gods. There shall not remain more of thy religion than tales, than words inscribed on stone and telling of thy lost piety. A day will come, alas, when the sacred hieroglyphs will become but idols. The world will mistake the symbols of wisdom for gods and accuse great Egypt of having worshipped hell-monsters."
A day did corne when control of the Mysteries began to fall into the wrong hands; into the hands of evil, selfish men,' ambitious to misuse the influence of this mighty institution— before whom proud Pharaohs sometimes bent—for their own personal ends. Many priests became focuses for virulent evil, practising the appalling rites and dark incantations of black magic; while even some High Priests—the presumed ministers of the gods to man—became devils in human form, evoking the most awful presences from the underworld for the worst of reasons. Sorcery replaced spirituality in the high places. Amid the spiritual gloom and chaos which fell tipon the land, the Mysteries soon lost their true character and high purpose, Worthy candidates became hard to find—fewer and fewer in number with the passing of time. An hour arrived when the qualified hierophants, as by some .strange Nemesis, began to die off quickly and all but ceased as a body to exist. They passed without preparing a sufficient number of successors to continue their line. Unworthy men took their places. Unable properly to fulfil their allotted part in the world, the few who remained suffered their ordained fate. Preparing for the end, they sadly but calmly dosed their secret books, abandoned their under-